Republican Congressman Ron Paul won the latest straw poll to gauge popularity ahead of the 2012 presidential race in a key South Carolina county.
The libertarian-leaning Texas congressman won the Lexington county Republican Party presidential straw poll on Saturday, with 16 percent of the 139 ballots cast. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney tied with billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump for second place, with 12 percent of the vote.
Paul has beat out top Republican presidential hopefuls in two other GOP straw polls this year.
Nearly 18 percent of Republicans voted for Paul in the presidential straw poll conducted at a GOP Convention in Sacramento in March. He was followed by former governor Mitt Romney, who received 10.9 percent of the vote and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who received 7.9 percent of the vote.
In another straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, Paul received 30 percent of the vote, followed by Mitt Romney with 23 percent.
POLITICO reported that the congressman has created a "testing the waters" account that allows him to start raising money for a potential 2012 presidential campaign.
Paul has raised nearly $3 million dollars during the first quarter of 2011 through his Political Action Committee and nonprofit organization. The congressman raised $1 million through LibertyPAC and $2 million through his nonprofit, Campaign for Liberty. The funds from his nonprofit cannot be used for a potential political campaign.
"Paul continues to use LibertyPAC to fund his activities while he explores his political options for 2012," Jesse Benton, director of Paul’s LibertyPAC, told POLITICO. "He remains undecided on what his plans will be, but as a final decision draws closer, his team has put the pieces in place for him to flip a switch and hit the ground running if he decides to run for president."
He is expected to announce whether he will again run for the Republican nomination sometime early next month.